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May 19, 2021

Collin Morikawa

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We are absolutely thrilled to be joined by our defending champion, Mr. Collin Morikawa, and welcome to what is your second PGA Championship.

Collin, you spent some time here just a little more than a month ago, came in for a great media day and got to experience the Ocean Course for the first time. Was it this windy that day, and maybe what are your impressions of the wind you've experienced here this week,

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I think I got lucky during the media day. It was actually windier and it was the opposite wind. We had the wind that we might actually see on Sunday, which is I think really beneficial for me just to see the course in a different way.

In my head I was ready to play 10 through 13 just nearly impossible hitting 4-irons and 5-woods into the greens, and I think I've hit 9-iron into a few of those greens this week so far.

Overall I think that's what this golf course is going to test, it's going to test your ability to adapt and then be ready for change. You're going to have nine holes that are into and nine holes that are against, and how are you going to be able to figure out how to just stay patient and play some great golf.

But it was great to see the golf course a month before just to kind of see the layout and just get a little more comfortable with how the course is going to play, but overall like I feel really good. Game is trending in a great direction, and I've just been really trying to go out and play golf, and I think that's the best thing you can do coming into a major.

Q. Along those same lines, everyone is talking about how long this golf course is, but can a mid-length player compete here, and if so, how?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I definitely think I can compete here. Obviously my ball-striking helps, and I feel comfortable with a 6-iron or 5-iron in my hands.

But you have to control your golf ball. Out here with the wind no matter what it is, it's going to be blowing over 10 all day everywhere, you just have to control your golf ball, so it doesn't matter if you're 150 yards or you're 200 yards, you have to be able to know where you're going to land certain shots, where you're going to miss them.

There's certain spots out here even with the paspalum grass it might be nice to have a good lie but if it gets a little baked out in the afternoon it's going to play a little harder. You have to be kind of cognizant of where you're hitting your shots, and I think that kind of favors what I do. I really strategically think through how I'm going to play all 18 holes.

Q. You say your game is trending nicely. What are some things you're seeing in your game you've kind of been waiting to see?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I think just putting everything together. You tweak little things here and there, and I was able to take three weeks off. I was really fortunate to do that before heading into this week. And when you get a break like that, you kind of set your clubs away for a little bit and then you go back and you get in the groove of things.

And then I was able to get my coach, Rick, out there in Vegas before this week, and we just got little things. We tinkered a little bit, figured out what we need to do, get in the routines.

But it's such a great game because you think about what you did really well in other tournaments, and it's so hard to actually remember what you did well. You actually think you did this well, but it might be something else. It might be something in your head, well, you thought that you just have to figure out. It's us just trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. We figured out a few things, and it feels really good.

Coming into this week we're not really working too much. Obviously you have a pretty windy range, the chipping green is not huge, but we're not really working too much, we're just trying to go out there and play golf and get comfortable, like I said, on the golf course.

Q. So it's harder to remember the good shots; are there pieces of the TOUR this year where you remember that tee shot at 16 at Harding?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: No, it's not remembering the good shots, it's remembering the process to get there. Because there's more than just us stepping up and hitting a good shot and saying -- obviously I remember the feeling I hit on 16, I remember those feelings.

But I can't just think about that feeling and go hit 60 good shots out on the golf course. There's a process to get there, that pre-shot routine, everything that's involved. There's just so much more that people don't realize that go into hitting a shot.

You're talking with your caddie, how do you talk with them, how do you get on the same page. There's just little things that like no one will ever pick up on. It's just something that I know that you tweak a little bit here and there and you just feel a little better for the week.

Q. What are some of the clubs that you're hitting into the closing five holes with this wind direction?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Let's see. 14, I hit 5-wood. 15 yesterday, what did I hit? I hit 5-iron. 16, I hit it in the right rough off the drive and I had 8-iron in for my third, which was nice. 17, I hit a 5-wood. 18, I hit 4-iron. So long irons.

Q. Do you think that gives you an advantage considering you are statistically the best iron player on the PGA TOUR? Do you think that gives you an advantage over the rest of the field?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Well, I think everyone is going to have a long iron in. Doesn't matter where we play. I guess if the tees are moved up you're going to have a little less, but what helps me is that I can control my ball flight, and I hope I control my ball really well this week, and that's what you have to do to have a chance at winning.

So it doesn't matter, and then that's where leading up with my long irons I think that's where it's going to help is that all these guys out here can hit a 4-iron, can hit a 5-iron, but it's who can control it in the wind, who can play it the right direction, who can know where they're going to miss it, and I think that just shows to my ball-striking abilities is that I have control over my ball, and some people in the wind, who knows what it's going to be like.

So it obviously takes out another portion of the field because out here with crosswinds, with breezes that are going to be into you, first two days I think are going to be pretty similar, Saturday is going to be different, Sunday is going to be different. How do you not get stuck in these practice rounds because I think what we've had Monday through today have all been the same. We've all had this kind of east wind, so how are you going to be able to adjust when the days are a little different with a 4-iron, with a 6-iron, whatever it may be, so when I have a 4-iron in my handy feel comfortable hitting those shots.

Q. I'm curious, over the last day or so we've heard some tales from you guys about 17 and how daunting that is, obviously particularly with this wind. I'm curious what your impression of 17 is. You said you hit 5-wood in yesterday. How much of a factor could that hole be down the stretch on Sunday if it's a tight leaderboard?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: That's a huge deciding hole. There's nowhere to bail. I think when I played that hole during media day, it was straight downwind and I was like, I don't know how we're going to play this downwind or into the wind. I wish they built like a full stadium and you wouldn't have any wind.

But it's going to be a huge hole because no matter where you put the tees you still might be hitting 7-iron, 6-iron and there's nowhere to bail. Usually you have somewhere just to kind of play away from the hazard, but it's hard to play short left because you still have water, you still have wind, and you only have about 15, 20 yards. Are you just playing center of the green? Are you playing at the bunker? It all depends on the wind.

I think coming down on Sunday, even on Saturday, how people are going to have momentum is those last couple holes are going to be huge. I'll take four 3s right now and get away with that because pars are going to be your friend those last couple holes.

But I look forward to it. I think you want that challenge. You want it to be hard. You don't want it to be unfair, but you want it to be tough because that kind of really makes you focus a little more and it really shows what a good shot will be like.

Q. You talk all the time about process and about the mindset that goes before hitting a good shot and knowing that your coach has all his graduate degrees, and he's much more than just a swing coach. What percent of the work that you guys do is physical and what percent of it is mental and sort of oriented?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, I mean, talking about what we did the past couple -- last week when he came down to Vegas for a couple days, 85 percent is probably process. It's crazy, I think when you get to this level, you see so many guys tinkering and doing this little stuff, and sometimes you need it. Sometimes you're just not hitting it well and you need to figure something out, get back to what you used to do.

But a lot of it has to do with the process. Normally a lot of things in our swings don't change that much, and sometimes they do. But a lot has to do with how you step into shots, how you look at shots, how you're visualizing whatever it may be, and everyone is different, but everyone has that kind of perfect success ratio of how you step into things, how your pre-shot routines are. I think you get away from that.

And that's what we work on. We work on how do we get to that great zone of what I was like at the PGA Championship last year and can I bring that every single week, not just one week out of 52.

Q. How often are you looking at your swing on video and how much do you use launch monitors in the lead-up to an event?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I look at my swing. I look at it here and there. But it's more just to see some positions. Sometimes they're a little off, and it's a quick fix for me.

But sometimes Rick won't even show me because I might be hitting it well, and if it's not leading to anything poor, you just leave it, you know, because we know what our positions are, we know what my mistakes will be, and if he catches something that's really off, he'll tell me, but other than that, if my arms are a little higher than what they're doing and we're hitting it great, he's probably going to leave it.

As it goes for launch monitors, I'm using them. It's a little more difficult when you have crosswinds on a range and you kind of start swinging and you have winds off your left pushing you. It's not the ideal wind to start practicing a bunch. But I use them. I've used them a lot since the Masters on my wedge game, and it's helped drastically, like just having confidence from 100 yards or 60 yards, like just knowing that I've hit those shots. It's huge. But I don't really use them at all for my irons.

Q. You haven't mentioned putting with any of this recent work. Have you been working on anything in particular there?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah. Just trying to get back to where I was at WGC Workday. I kind of got into a couple bad habits with this -- it's not the grip that put me in a bad habit. It's just how I set up to it, how I was going in. I've been thinking about different ways, how do I walk into the putt, how do I hit my practice strokes. I was trying a bunch of things over the past couple weeks, and just finally felt something that I was comfortable with.

And I know this grip works. I still feel comfortable with it. It's just getting little things, my arm, my stance, whatever it may be, just in that right position and being able to go up and putt it.

Q. Seems like a strange thing to ask the 4th-ranked player in the world, but do you feel like putting has held you back at all?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Oh, for sure. It's definitely my weakness. I wouldn't say it's held me back, but it hasn't helped me. I think I'm like 180 something on Tour this year, which isn't great for really anyone out on Tour.

But you know, I've shown that when I do putt well, I'm able to play really well. I'm able to put myself in contention. It's just finding consistencies. I'm going to go through stretches here and there where you're not going to putt great, and right now over the season -- I know in the fall like I was putting awful, and that's going to set me back for the rest of the year.

Even if I putted really, really great, my stats might not move up that much, but at this point I don't care, I just want to putt well for this week, I want to putt well for next week, I want to putt well on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

But I feel like I'm doing the right things to try and get better. That's what's exciting is that when I changed to this grip, I saw something that I had never seen before. Just comfort, like setting over the putter. If I had a four-footer I felt comfortable stroking the putter. I knew I was heading down the right path.

Still some things to work on, but this week I feel good.

Q. Collin, can you share a little bit about putting together the menu for your dinner last night?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah. Knowing me, I love food, so it was kind of how much food can you just throw at everyone. But no, I gave people the option of fish or fried chicken, so either you go healthy or you don't go healthy.

And then I just threw -- we had a bunch of porter houses on the table. Everyone was loving that, just to kind of pick on. It's a great family style, and obviously going through COVID and everything, you're so used to takeout boxes -- maybe I should have given everyone a takeout box and just told them to go eat in their room. That would have been new.

But it was just good to have people like share food and just have people talk to each other while they passed the plates. I think we all missed that, and seeing fans out this week, it's so enjoyable just to see their kind of passion for golf and see them love just us hitting a good golf shot. Like even if it's not a good golf shot, just kind of them seeing, wow, we can actually do what they see on TV.

The dinner was just kind of put together, foods that I love, and it was an awesome night really.

Q. Were you aware before you won this tournament that this was a tradition?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: No. But I'm glad it is. It was so cool to talk to a bunch of champions, not just champions that I know, but just guys that are older that aren't on Tour anymore, just to kind of hear stories from them. It's a really meaningful night.

Q. What's the best story you heard?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Well, I'm not going to tell you that.

Q. I know you're fairly a bit of a neophyte, at least on Tour, but with regard to defending a championship or a tournament, what is the mindset, and how much is that ratcheted up in a major championship? Obviously it's not the same venue and whatnot, so there's a uniqueness to that, but what is your mindset defending? Can you describe that role?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, well, this is my first tournament I've ever defended since 2017 Sunnehanna Amateur. I haven't defended any of my college events, I've never defended any of my PGA TOUR wins. I don't really know. People came up to me and called me "DC" and I was like, I don't know what that means. Obviously it means defending champion now.

But I don't know, I don't feel an extra weight. I feel like people look at you and they know you won last year, but in my sense, like I'm coming out here to win and I see these guys every single day and I see them every week that it really doesn't change much.

Like you said, we're at a different venue. I think if it were at the same exact venue and we were at Harding Park again, I might feel a little different, but to be honest, I think everyone is coming out here to win, and I don't think there's an added pressure.

I don't think there's an added pressure I need to add to myself because I'm doing all my prep work that I normally would. I wouldn't do something different because I'm defending. I'm sticking to what I know works and I'm going to do that Monday through Wednesday and hopefully be ready by Thursday and kind of go from there.

Q. It feels like it's obviously still so early in your career, but it feels like when you've been in contention, apart from 3M, you've won, you've taken the opportunity. Do you feel like getting those wins early and not having the scar tissue of a near miss or playing poorly in contention gives you an extra sort of swagger when you do get up there on the top of the board?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: I mean, I do have my scar tissue. I missed that putt at Colonial when we first came back.

You know, I don't think of it as scar tissue. I don't look back at it and cringe. I look back at it that I learned and I definitely put that to use when I missed that putt, losing at 3M, losing to an eagle.

You use that as kind of momentum. You use that to push you and how do you get better, how do you not put yourself in those moments where somebody can beat you, how do you try to take advantage of it. But some weeks you wake up knowing this could be your event, and when you wake up on Sundays you're just ready to go play golf.

The nerves, I'm glad I was able to close out the WGC earlier this year because I was able to sleep on a lead and I didn't lose sleep because of it, I was just ready to go play golf. I think that's the coolest thing that I've kind of come to realize in this early couple years as a pro is that I just love being in these moments.

Nothing is making you nervous. From the first day I teed it up at a PGA TOUR event in Canada, it just felt like I was ready. It felt like this was the thing I wanted to do every day.

When I put myself in those positions, I can't tell you why I've been able to close it out a handful of times, but I just love being in that position. Like those nerves, that's what we live for. I love that adrenaline. I know we've talked about it, but yeah, I love being in that position, so why not take advantage of it.

Q. The stats say when you putt well, you're going to have a chance to win probably. Do you feel that way?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yes. I hope so. Yeah, I mean, like we talked about earlier, you mentioned -- it's definitely held me back. It's something that if I just had a few more putts drop -- I'm not saying a lot. If I putt at a zero strokes gained I'm going to be doing pretty well. I give myself enough birdie chances, especially on certain courses, where if I miss a couple -- if I miss my 12-foot birdie putts it's going to hurt my strokes gained a lot. I'm hitting a lot of greens, I'm hitting a lot of close shots.

I'm not looking for a positive-2 on the greens every day. If I just get around zero, I think my game, the consistency will be there a lot more, and I think that's kind of what I'm looking for.

Q. You mentioned 17 playing difficult whether it was into the wind or downwind. What about the rest of the back nine on Sunday? With the west wind coming in, how different do the four holes going out play and the five holes coming in play going into and then down versus down and then into?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Oh, they play drastically different.

Like I said earlier, I was able to play that wind in the media day so I have a sense of what those holes will be like and what they're going to play like. Coming into this week I didn't have a chance of like oh, this hole is going to play hard, this hole is going to play easy. I knew 17 was going to play hard no matter what. Doesn't matter what wind you're going to get. We're all going to have to play it. It's who's going to be able to adapt and adjust, and that's the name of the game. Can you step up on the first tee and be ready to hit that shot for the day, not can I hit that shot that I hit on Tuesday that you might have striped right down the middle of the fairway.

Q. Rick has a nice role this week with the PGA Coaching Live. What's your involvement going to be with that, and as someone who's very thoughtful about the swing and your craft, do you enjoy sharing that?

COLLIN MORIKAWA: Yeah, to be honest, I don't know what my involvement is going to be. I know he had a couple things to do on the course yesterday while we were out there. But just building my swing.

I think the way we've built it is just how do you tailor to someone's strengths. Just because I had a bowed wrist when I was younger and I kept that doesn't mean you had to change it and become like someone else. We all have different swings out here. There's no one swing that you can say this guy looks exactly the same as the other, and I think that's what makes every coach out here, every player great is because they know what works and what is tailored to certain players.

You have to have that trust in what they do, and we kind of have figured out what we need to do great and what we need to work on and just kind of fine tuned those things.

THE MODERATOR: Collin, thanks for your time.

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